U-OV director Gerrit Spijksma, councilwoman Lot van Hooijdonk, and superintendent Dennis Straat at the first test ride of the Uithoflijn tram. (photo: DUB)

The Uithof tram is running, but passengers aren’t allowed on yet

Body: 

After months and months of testing in the middle of the night, the tram between De Uithof and Utrecht Central Station is finally running during the day. It is hoped that the first passengers will be able to take the tram by September. On Thursday, superintendent Dennis Straat said that it’s almost certain the tram will run properly by December.

Read in Dutch

The daytime runs of the tram were celebrated on Thursday as a major milestone by transportation company U-OV, the municipality, the province, and the Utrecht Science Park foundation. There was coffee, tea, and pastries with a yellow tram print on them. Finally, there was some good news about the tram – which was supposed to start running last summer.

The official event took place in front of the tram which was parked at the Padualaan for the occasion. There, councilwoman Lot van Hooijdonk presented U-OV director Gerrit Spijksma with a photo, on which the words “green light for running in public areas” were printed. With this moment, the trial period has officially begun, and the responsibility for the tram line and its stops now lie with U-OV.

Line 22
After the ceremony, guests were granted a peek into the brand-new tram. There are a number of seats in it, but mostly, a lot of space for standing passengers. Those who travel from start to finish during rush hour and can’t find a seat will have to stand for 17 minutes.

UUers will see the tram pass by a lot in the coming weeks, but will not be allowed to get on yet. For now, the Uithof tram will run without passengers, as there’s a lot left to be tested and done before it’s ready.

The big question then, of course, is when students and employees will be able to actually take the tram to Central Station. Will the proposed starting date of December 2019 be achieved, or will more obstacles be encountered on the way? Superintendent Dennis Straat is confident that it’s 95% certain the tram will run according to schedule in December. He even takes it one step further: “The goal is to start transporting passengers in five months’ time, starting in August. But only if everything goes smoothly.”

The new tram will get its own number, running as line 22, and will eventually replace bus 12.

Getting used to the tram
For students and employees in De Uithof, the tram will take some getting used to. The unclear pedestrian crossings are already leading to difficult and even dangerous situations. What will this be like if there aren’t just buses crossing the Heidelberglaan, but a tram as well?

Tram driver Aswin hopes that by slowly increasing the number of tram runs, everyone in De Uithof will slowly get used to the tram. He and his fellow tram drivers will also take tram driving lessons during the trial period.  After a few months of practice in a simulator, they can now get started for real.

To make students more aware of the test runs, yellow warning signs have been placed. “The presence of cyclists in De Uithof and the many pedestrian crossings are definitely focal points for our drivers,” says Straat. The tram won’t race through De Uithof, though: the maximum speed there is 30 kilometres an hour.

Calamities
During the trial period, several calamities will be practiced, with firefighters and other emergency services. People at the UU won’t be bothered by this, however. “The calamity practices will take place during quiet times on weekends. This enables us to evaluate the situation more clearly,”  Straat explains.

The third important phase of the trial run is testing the tram’s timetable. The tram is now running twice an hour, which will be increased step by step to 4, 6, 8, 12, and 16 times an hour. At the end of the trial period, a tram will pass by every 3.75 minutes.

For everyone taking bus 12 to De Uithof every day, nothing will change for now. In most cases, Straat says, you won’t be able to blame the tram for any possible delays. “If all goes well, bus and tram won’t bother each other, although it’s always possible something may happen. That’s why we have a trial period.”

Facebook Twitter Whatsapp Mail